Despite having achieved household food security, thanks to Green, White and Blue revolutions, the problem of poverty, hunger and malnutrition still persists and the real income of farmer has declined. To reverse this trend, there is an urgency for an introspection of existing technology, development and policy related initiatives and to evolve a new strategy with defined Road Map, to accelerate agricultural growth rate which seemed to have stuck around 3 per cent. Also, accelerating agricultural growth is warranted for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This obviously calls for some bold policy decisions and their effective implementation. Recognizing the above concerns, the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India constituted a committee to review agricultural policies and suggest strategies as well as action plan to achieve faster a secure and sustainable agriculture so as to ensure improved livelihood of smallholder farmers. Besides its five meetings, the committee networked with more than 150 eminent scientists, agricultural experts and key stakeholders from across the country and those of Indian origin residing abroad, organized a few peer review meetings and had individual/virtual consultations. In the process, key existing government policies, programs and schemes related to agriculture were critically reviewed, along with some very promising innovations, which on scaling out, can make greater impact. Accordingly, this report is structured to highlight: (i) role of agriculture in achieving sustainable development goals;
(ii) accelerating agricultural growth for secure and sustainable agriculture; iii) recommendations and proposed reforms, and iv) action plan for scalable innovations.
India is currently at the centre stage globally with regard to achieving SDGs, failing which possibly the UN targets would not be met in view of existing concentration of both poverty and hunger, being the maximum compared to elsewhere. Hence, there is an urgency to adopt some bold policies and to scale out new technologies and innovations to ensure increased production linked to input use efficiency, post-production, value chain, effective partnership with stakeholders, especially the private sector, and the linkages with both national and global markets. Fortunately, the Government’s commitment to meet SDGs and the Paris Agreement for climate change do present unique opportunity for the entire agricultural sector to get aligned for a better tomorrow. Thus, there is an urgency that policy makers accord high priority to agriculture, which still sustains almost half of the Indian population, to
ensure faster agricultural growth to achieve food, nutritional and environmental security for all. This obviously would demand doubling of funds for agricultural research and innovation for development (ARI4D), which still gives the highest returns (more than 10 times) compared to rest of other growth sectors. Also, the enhanced capital investment in non-Green Revolution areas such as eastern and north-eastern regions, especially to improve social progress index (SPI), becomes highly justified to ensure an Evergreen Revolution that is sustainable. Besides SDGs, India’s commitment for doubling farmers’ income is a major policy initiative, which demands specific focus now on increased production with low input cost, sustainable agricultural diversification and efficient post-production management, including value addition, and better options for linking farmers to market. Obviously, these would
demand a paradigm shift in current national agricultural policies to become pro-farmer and to ensure higher agricultural growth for an over all prosperity.
This committee is of the firm view that farmers are currently the most stressed community whose income is not enough to meet their daily needs. Farmers need good land, healthy soils, adequate and good quality water, timely supply of key inputs, technologies that can ensure higher and efficient production, good and timely extension services, easy availability of credit at low interest rate, access to national xxii Report on Policies and Action Plan for a Secure and Sustainable Agriculture and global markets and finally the respect and dignity which they deserve in the society. Accordingly, this report centers around a new strategy and policy reforms aiming at accelerating agricultural growth, achieving SDGs, and doubling farmers’ income while perusing a ‘Farmer FIRST’ approach.
This report also centers around transforming Indian agriculture and the food system towards a more productive, secure (resilient) and sustainable source of economic growth, improved livelihood for those engaged in the sector and a true catalyst for creation of jobs downstream in the production and post-production scenario. To achieve this noble transformation, a bold vision, accompanied by equally bolder policies and resolute actions are suggested, because the needed boldness is required to get to achieve a new plank, which we seemed to have slipped since India became food secure. Since then, agriculture has prodded along sluggishly being a reflection of complacency despite pockets of brilliance and available technological innovations needing policy support for scaling. Bringing new
innovations to scale and to accelerate agricultural growth above 4 per cent, as envisioned in National Agricultural Policy (2000), would require increased investments with priorities and commitments as a pre-requisite for implementing suggested reforms and new programs in this report. The proposed recommendations are not just a continuation of the business as usual approach of providing technical solutions and essentially tinkering at the margin but are key for taking India to newer heights through over all accelerated growth and sustainable development in agriculture.
The new strategy suggested in the report to address farmers’ diverse needs includes: doubling farmers’ income through increased production, diversification in farming systems that are eco-regionally most sustainable, input cost reduction by scaling technical innovations (be scientist or farmer-led), availability of credit at low interest rate, value addition and better income through direct linkages to markets. The strategy centres around: harnessing scientific, technical and institutional innovations, besides needed policy reforms and both national and global partnerships.
The report highlights new opportunities for harnessing science for new gains through the use of: precision agriculture, biotechnology, sensor technology, bioinformatics, climate-smart agriculture, robotics, drones, big data management, artificial intelligence, etc. The committee firmly believes that there exists considerable scope for scaling out promising technologies for extending the gains such as: growing different crops in newer/non-traditional areas, exploitation of hybrid technology, use of biotechnology, especially GM crops, conservation agriculture, scientific land use and ecoregional planning, farm mechanization for precision farming, reversing soil degradation, improving soil health, especially through the restoration of soil organic carbon, doubling water use efficiency, improved nutrient use, generation of bioenergy and biofuel production, ICT for knowledge empowerment, etc.
The report covers major recommendations relating to key production sectors of agriculture, namely, natural resource management, crops, horticulture, livestock, fisheries and some cross-cutting areas such as: agro-ecological based land use planning, role of youth and women, private sector participation, institutional mechanisms and reforms, knowledge dissemination and capacity building along with action plan for policy reforms and some creative innovations that have great potential for outscaling to accelerate agricultural growth with desired impact on farmers’ income.
Institutional reforms are important to sustain the gains in agriculture through scaling scientific innovations. Some key institutional reforms recommended include: review of existing agricultural policies and forming a new one on agriculture and farmers’ welfare to meet the emerging challenges; needed reorientation of on-going missions/national programs, including urgency for initiating some new missions; clearance of some key pending Acts/Bills by the Parliament; strengthening of ICAR/SAUs/KVKs/PRIs with urgency for doubling current public funding; establishment of a new National Agricultural Development and Farmers’ Welfare Council (NAD&FWC) under the chairmanship of Prime Minister, extremely essential for decision making and to ensure effective coordination and convergence so critical, since agriculture is a State subject; establishing Farmers’ Welfare Commissions both at the Centre and State level, as an institutional mechanism for providing a neutral platform; an
Report on Policies and Action Plan for a Secure and Sustainable Agriculture xxiii
Independent Strategic Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Unit to review and assess the impact of all
central agriculture related schemes; grassroot knowledge empowerment through both public and paid
extension systems; expanding the mandate of KVKs as ‘Knowledge-Skill-Innovation Centres’ and to
facilitate the establishment of Agri-Clinics; support for creating more Farmer Producer Organizations;
building trusted partnership with the private sector, and finally the empowerment and motivation of
women and youth to remain in agriculture and be the important game changers.
The report also highlights an urgent need for policy reforms to increase capital investment in
agriculture (both public and private), especially in the eastern, North-eastern, dryland and coastal
regions that are capable of more sustainable Green Revolutions in future, increase in credit access
to the farmers and young entrepreneurs at low interest rate (4%) and creation of more financial
institutions such as Kisan Banks, increasing investments in rural (roads, electricity) and marketing
infrastructure, including pledged warehouses, production and availability of quality seeds and
planting materials, availability of safe and effective chemicals, farm machinery on custom hire basis,
food processing facilities, etc. which are so critical for increasing social progress index (SPI), being
a major determinant, for achieving the SDGs. Also, there is a need to rationalize input subsidies
and transfer them henceforth to farmers through direct benefit transfer (DBT) mechanism such as:
converting subsidies on fertilizers as incentives for use as per need assessed through soil health cards,
power and irrigation subsidy through adoption of conservation agriculture as well as micro-irrigation
practices, more land cover under trees (e.g. har med par ped) through adoption of agroforestry policy
etc. Accordingly, it is recommended to convert subsidies as incentives for both farming efficiency
and environmental services @ Rs 10,000 per acre per annum up to a maximum of 10 acres (4 ha) per
farming family. Strengthening of price stabilization fund is also suggested with enhanced allocations
and the creation of a credit risk management fund is suggested on the model of plantation crops.
Insurance of horticultural crops, livestock and fishery needs to be given equal importance under
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), linked to operational efficiency for its implementation
through accurate weather forecasting, mapping of losses using satellite imagery, and the timely
settlement of claims, etc.
For increased income of farmers, and for attracting youth in agriculture, emphasis is clearly needed now on secondary and specialty agriculture, supported well by value chain for efficient postharvest handling, rural based primary processing and marketing. All these are badly in need of policy support and technical backstopping. In this context, the minimum support price (MSP) be fixed at 1.5 times of cost C2 and the procurement in future be extended to all commodities, with decentralized procurements to be made by the States. Also, there is need to enhance markets intensity in rural areas and ensure market linkages through e-NAM requiring uniform adoption of Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (APLM) Act and Contract Farming Act by various States. Further, the mandi tax has also to be rationalized around 5-7 per cent, whereas some even charge more than twice the amount. The Essential Commodities Act (ECA) and Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act also need to be reviewed in regard to their relevance especially when intention through e-NAM is to create a unified national market to benefit both the producers and consumers. The concerns of seed industry with regard to implementation and harmonization of Biological Diversity Act and Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act (PPV&FRA), unresolved issues relating to access and benefit sharing (ABS) for use of genetic resources, besides intellectual property (IP) protection on innovation such as genetic modification (GM), genome editing, etc., pricing policy
on seeds and long awaited revision of Seed Act need to be addressed on priority. The fertilizer and pesticides industries also have serious concerns relating to regulations and their effective implementation requiring immediate Government intervention to create an enabling environment to ensure accelerated growth of agriculture. It is proposed that corporate social responsibility (CSR) be now linked to efficient technology dissemination through active involvement of youth (including women) as technology/extension agents, input and/or service providers and for the establishment of Agri-Clinics involving young enterpreneurs. Considering enormous potential for agricultural
xxiv Report on Policies and Action Plan for a Secure and Sustainable Agriculture exports, it is suggested to revisit our export-import (EXIM) policy and make it long-term foresight oriented to harness the benefits of globalization. For this, Agricultural and Processed Food Products
Export Development Authority (APEDA) needs to be strengthened to take-up additional functions of international demand assessment, establishing linkages with potential importing countries and to maintain international food safety and quarantine standards. It should also create a national system of certification of organic foods for both domestic and international markets.
Further, it has been observed that the Seed Bill, Pesticide Management Bill, Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, and other important Bills/Acts relating to agriculture and rural development are pending for enactment by the Parliament for long and hence all these be got expedited without further delay. A National Policy on Biotechnology, embracing GM and genome editing, National Livestock Breeding Policy (including the enactment of a new Act to protect all indigenous livestock breeds), and the National Land Utilization Policy, which is both owner and tenant friendly, as proposed in the Model Land Leasing Act, should be considered for quick decision and
implementation by all the States concerned. In this context, the fragmentation of land holdings below one ha in irrigated and 2 ha in the rainfed areas, being uneconomical, be legally not permitted. Also, the digitization of agricultural land ownership records be now made a priority requirement by all States.
Finally, it is committee’s resolve that the growth of agriculture sector can be accelerated to help achieve SDGs much faster provided the recommendations given in the report are implemented through both a missionary zeal and as a package by the Government.
Report on policies and action plan for secure and sustainable agriculture